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The Middle East: a Silicon Valley in the making?

The money’s there and now the Middle East is looking at developing an innovation ecosystem to create its own version of Silicon Valley.  As we often see in The Next Silicon Valley, innovation is increasingly being seen by many governments as the way out of economic recession. Hence every region around the world is trying to learn from and recreate its own Silicon Valley.

So the visit by a delegation of senior level leaders from the Arab World to Silicon Valley this month didn’t go un-noticed.  A key part of this mission to the valley was an event entitled, ‘Unlocking the Potential of the Arab Spring’ – which had speakers comprising high-level officials from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Oman. The event was organized by TechWadi, which bridges interests and enables collaboration between Silicon Valley and the Arab world.

As the New York Times has commented this week, it could take up to 10 years, but the Middle East and North Africa region is ‘on the cusp of creating its own Silicon Valley experience’.  Governments in the region are ready to pour billions of dollars into developing their own innovation ecosystems and, ultimately, entrepreneurs that create companies that create jobs.

They are looking for know-how to rebuild the country’s economy, and especially how to create the right environment for this to happen, by sparking a culture of entrepreneurship. This was stated for example by the Iraq communications minister Mohammed Allawi at the TechWadi conference, and is something that other ministries around the region have said in recent months. The leaders acknowledge that security is an issue but is something they will no doubt work on improving.

While western countries are looking at innovation and clusters forming the basis of a growth strategy to come out of recession, for the Middle East and Africa, innovation and entrepreneurship is going to be a way of empowering a growing young demographic who have finally been liberated after years, and who have the aspirations to build their own versions of the next Google and Facebook.

Whether it will be in Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates or Libya, there’s a very good chance that there will be some level of success in the region creating multiple clusters capable of creating world-beating entrepreneurial companies.

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